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About the Study

STAYin(g)Rural: Staying in the Rural

Contemporary Life Course Related Senses of Belonging, Mobility and Rural Community Participation

Understanding how and why people stay in rural areas at different life transitions, and the contributions they make to rural communities and rural quality of life, helps inform policy decisions about funding, servive provision and living conditions.

However, to date, population geography research has focused on in- and out-migration. Especially in rural areas, those who do not move are seen as a residual category and their motivations for staying recieve limited academic or policy attention. STAYin(g)Rural investigates why and how people stay in rural areas at different stages of their lives. Rather than being once made, the decision to stay (or leave) is likely to be repeated multiple times over a lifetime, such as when leaving the parental home, commencing further/higher education, commencing employment, union and family formation, children leaving home, retirement, failing health, and widowhood. This project acknowledges that people elect to (selectively) belong to and participate in rural areas and that different types of mobilities influence their staying processes.

The project combines a questionnaire survey of households, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions in three rural case study regions: east Groningen (Netherlands), south Tyrone (Northern Ireland), and south Lower Saxony (Germany). It focuses on three life course stages which are known triggers for re-negoiating residential choices: young adulthood, family formation and post-retirement. 

The research questions guiding the project are as follows:

  1. Which stayer types and staying processes can be identified at different life course stages, for different generations and in different rural geographical contexts?
  2. What are the roles of different types of belonging, rootedness, and peer and family influences in the processes of rural staying? To what extent can 'cultures of staying' be identified?
  3. How do daily mobilities (e.g. commuting), virtual mobilities (e.g. social media) and (reverse) place elasticity (e.g. connections with leavers and other places) enable staying?
  4. How do stayers participate in and contribute to social community life? How does this relate to their s/elective ways of belonging to the rural region and their social networks? 

STAYin(g)Rural is intended to yield significant new insights on: (i) contemporary types of rural stayers and staying processes; (ii) how rural belonging and mobility relate to processes of staying and active participation to maintain rural quality of life, and (iii) how these are performed in different geographical contexts and at different life stages. Preparation of, and outcomes from, each research phase will be shared and discussed with rural stakeholders via national Steering Groups (click here for more information), case study seminars and an international workshop.

The project commenced in May 2019 for three years. It is led by three Principal Investigators and employs one Research Fellow (based in Belfast) and three PhD students (one in each of the partner institutions). Find out more about the research team here. The project is organised into five research phases and four work packages (find out more here).